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Q&A: HOF player, broadcaster Karen Hall on NGWSD, Title IX and 'what's next'

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Dr. Karen Hall’s Hall of Fame resume was recognized as such three months ago. In early November, the former Mount Alvernia and UNLV basketball star was inducted into the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame — an honor for which she’s still “very thankful for and humbled by.”

Being inducted was a reminder for many of Hall’s accomplishments. She became a Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 selection and national girls basketball All-American as a senior in 1984. Hall was the team captain for Mount Alvernia’s undefeated PIAA Class 1A championship team in 1983 and later served as a two-time captain at UNLV.

After her playing career, Hall was an ESPN color commentator and a collegiate and high school coach, among other roles within the industry. Now, Hall is the assistant executive director and director of communications of Ozanam, a local basketball program for children 8 to 18 years old.

Ahead of Wednesday’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day — and with 2022 marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the 1972 law that gave women the right to equal opportunity in elementary, high school and college sports — we spoke to Hall, who offered her experience and perspective on the occasion.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

PG: This might be a loaded question to start with. But on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, to see where girls and women’s sports are right now compared to where they were, what’s your assessment of that progress? And where do you hope to see it go?

Hall: “I want to first acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of all those women who, back in 1972, did not have the opportunities that we are now afforded. That’s so important to me, that we as women and girls understand that we have not been able to ascend to where we are by ourselves. It’s not us. In basketball, I stand on the shoulders of those women who never got to play the game full-court; I couldn’t imagine. I was afforded the opportunity to play the game the way men played it.

“And where is it going? We need it to go in a direction where women are controlling the dollars. We are controlling the hiring of other talented individuals. But in our sports across the board, men are still controlling most of whether the sport stays or goes. The dollar is really in their hands. And it’s a business. ... It needs to go where we are in control of the financial part of the business of sport. Then things would be, I guess I could use the word equitable. Because if the NBA at any point says, ‘We’ve had enough,’ then what happens to the WNBA? Are we at a level where we could sustain the WNBA by ourselves? That’s where I want us to go.”

PG: As you think about your career and your experience as both a coach and a broadcaster, what has been the most enjoyable part of what you’ve been able to do post-playing career?

Hall: “My favorite part post-career is the fact that I’ve been able to integrate my love of athletics, broadcasting and education. I’ve been able to integrate that into the position I’m now in. ... It’s all about the mindset and the visualization of how you see yourself. And it’s not just in the present moment, but also when you look down the road. It’s not about what I’ve done. I always say, ‘What’s next?’ So I attained the position of being in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. That day was tremendous, one of the best days and fun days of my career. But that day left, right? It’s always what’s next.”

PG: So what is your ‘next’?

Hall: “It’s all about athletic administration. I’ve been the player, the coach, the broadcaster. Now, it’s a moment where I can take all that and start influencing other student-athletes on a day-to-day basis in an athletic administrative role, whether that’s collegiate, interscholastic or professional. That’s the next. No matter what the level is, I hope to have an influence. My goal is for student-athletes — men and women, boys and girls — to understand that you stand on those shoulders of those who paved the way. You get to reap the rewards. So please understand that there are others that came before you, and that is to be acknowledged.”

PG: How crucial is it for today’s athletes to have that appreciation?

Hall: “Let’s look at media coverage. Media coverage didn’t happen just because you’re playing today. In women’s basketball, the difference between my career and your career is media exposure. The world missed so many great players when women’s athletics wasn’t in the media on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t streaming live. The NCAAs weren’t on other than the final game. There’s media coverage, and it’s because of those who didn’t have it, those who fought for it, those who had to fight for a seat at the table. It’s really a time of humility for our present-day athletes. A lot of people didn’t have what you had. There was a lot of sacrifice. ... It’s all about knowing your history. Most athletes are like, ‘It’s my time. I’m glad they have books, but I’m writing my own chapter.’ Right, but one day you’ll be a chapter, and other people will be like, ‘Who?’ You have to be grateful, grateful for the opportunities.

“Women have done great things. But we need more. And how do we get that? They say, ‘Lift as you rise.’ That can make a huge difference in terms of an explosion in ownership, being a general manager, being executive directors. ... I want to take a holistic view of NGWSD and Title IX. Because we’re still in it. We’re still in it. That’s important.”

Johnny McGonigal: and Twitter @jmcgonigal9

First Published February 2, 2022, 7:00am

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